Draft Season Never Ends: Week 1 Recap and Week 2 Preview

New episodes dropping every Friday! Football is finally back in full swing! Stetson Bennett, Anthony Richardson and C.J. Stroud each had important weeks to open the season. There are a few other standout performers from across the country as well. Plus, Chris looks ahead to another big weekend of college football games and reacts to Thursday Night Football.

You can find every episode on Anchor, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or wherever you find your podcasts. As always, I appreciate reviews, feedback and when you hit that subscribe button.

NFL draft stock watch: Stetson Bennett, Jared Verse impress in Week 1

Week 1 of the 2022 college football season is in the books! It was a thrilling first week of action from Pitt’s wild win over West Virginia on Thursday night through a tense Clemson-Georgia Tech showdown on Monday. We had some outrageous finishes in Boone, Gainesville and New Orleans in between.

I had a chance to watch a bunch of games over the weekend and there were a bunch of players who really impressed me and several others who fell short of the mark. I won’t pretend I watched every game, but here was my watch list so far from the weekend:
Pittsburgh-West Virginia
Georgia-Oregon
Syracuse-Louisville
Michigan-Colorado State
Florida-Utah
LSU-Florida State
Clemson-Georgia Tech

I still have several more that I want to watch, including NC State-East Carolina, UNC-App State, Coastal Carolina-Army, Penn State-Purdue and Oklahoma State-Central Michigan.

Each week, I am going to write this column to highlight which players I think boosted their draft stocks and which players are trending in the wrong direction. Not every player that I liked is going to get a shoutout and not every player that I was underwhelmed by will be mentioned. I am also limiting this to draft-eligible players for 2023. So while Drake Maye and Malaki Starks looked great, neither is going to be on this list.

Without further ado, here is my stock up and stock down after Week 1.

Stock Up

Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR, West Virginia
5th-year junior
Week 1 stat line: 9 catches, 97 yards, 2 TDs
While West Virginia came up short on Thursday night to open the season, Ford-Wheaton caught everyone’s attention with a fantastic performance. He showcased his size, ability to adjust to the ball in the air and solid hands. It looks like he will be JT Daniels’ go-to target in this offense. What’s more, finding the end zone twice is a huge improvement for a player that has yet to top three touchdowns in a single season. There is a long season ahead to prove that this wasn’t a fluke, but it was about as strong a start Ford-Wheaton could have hoped for.

Tiyon Evans, RB, Louisville
3rd-year junior
Week 1 stat line: 13 carries, 89 yards, 1 TD, 2 receptions, 2 yards
The stat line might not look like much at first glance. However, averaging 6.8 yards per carry against a Syracuse defense that allowed 2.7 combined to all other rushers in the game. Evans was about the only bright spot for a Louisville offense that struggled to get anything going. I liked what I saw from him at Tennessee and it seems like he has picked up right where he left off with the Cardinals. I would love to see a bit more production out of the backfield, but this was a really good start.

Stetson Bennett, QB, Georgia
6th-year senior
Week 1 stat line: 25/31, 368 yards, 2 TDs, 2 carries, 8 yards, 1 TD
It turns out that Bennett might just have an NFL future after all. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. He is still nowhere near the level of Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud, but he looks like he could be a capable starter in the right system. Todd Monken put him in some very easy positions to make plays, but Bennett made the correct decision every time. He is mobile and crafty. He had some truly special plays in this game and posted a new career-high in passing yards. Bennett still has a number of questions to answer when it comes to arm strength, but he is winning over doubters.

Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
3rd-year sophomore
Week 1 stat line: 3 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, blocked field goal
What a coming out party for the Albany transfer! Verse absolutely dominated LSU’s offensive line, frequently getting himself into the backfield. He won with a variety of pass-rush moves and made life very difficult for Jayden Daniels. The blocked field goal early in the game was simply icing on the cake. For anyone wondering if Verse would be able to adjust to playing Power 5 football after transferring from an FCS program, it seems like the transition has not been an issue.

Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
3rd-year sophomore
Week 1 stat line: 17/24, 168 yards, 11 carries, 106 yards, 3 TDs
Richardson lit the world on fire with a stunning performance in the Swamp. He flashed that incredible ability last season, but now he stepped into the full-time starter role. So far, so good for the Gators. He had some plays against Utah that were just absurd. Most of the damage was done on the ground. Richardson might be the best running quarterback in the country, although LSU’s Jayden Daniels would like a word. I would still like to see a bit more in the passing game from Richardson, but he does more than enough to make me think he is trending towards being a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft. He still has a very small sample size to draw from, but plenty of opportunities left to prove he is a special kind of player.

K.J. Henry, EDGE, Clemson
5th-year senior
Week 1 stat line: 7 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
There are about half a dozen Clemson defenders I was already monitoring this year. Henry was not one of them entering Monday night, but he is now. He dominated this ball game against Georgia Tech. He made the Yellow Jackets offensive line look foolish for much of the night, perfectly executing pass-rush stunts and routinely showing his ability to use his hands to find separation on the edge. Entering the game, he only had 9.5 sacks combined in his first four seasons. He could be primed for a breakout year that sees him landed in the middle rounds of the NFL draft. Keep in mind, he was ESPN’s No. 6 recruit back in 2018. Looks like he might finally be living up to his potential.

Garrett Shrader, QB, Syracuse
4th-year junior
Week 1 stat line: 18/25, 236 yards, 2 TDs, 16 carries, 94 yards, 1 TD
So full disclosure, I am a Syracuse alum, but wow, I was blown away by the development seen from Shrader. A year ago, he struggled to complete passes, looked wildly inaccurate and seemed overmatched by the competition in the ACC. It was just one game, but he looked poised, showing greatly improved accuracy and continuing to be a threat with his legs. He has to repeat this type of performance several times this season to warrant being drafted, but he started the weekend nowhere near the radar. He at least has the attention of scouts now heading into a three-game stretch against UConn, Purdue and Virginia.

Stock Down

Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
3rd-year sophomore
Week 1 stat line: 3 tackles
I had very high expectations for Sewell heading into this season. He featured in my most recent mock draft as a late first-round selection. It certainly does not look like that will be the case through one week. I went back and watched Sewell closely after Georgia stomped Oregon. Sewell routinely looked lost. He was missing reads, falling for the window dressing that the Bulldogs were running with misdirections and players in motion. There were still a couple of plays where he flowed downhill and got to the football, but the bad definitely outweighed the good in this one. It was a huge stage for Sewell to prove himself. He definitely fell flat and will have some questions to answer moving forward.

Cade McNamara, QB, Michigan
4th-year senior
Week 1 stat line: 9/18, 136 yards, 1 TD, 1 carry, -8 yards
It is looking more and more likely that McNamara will lose his starting job in the coming weeks. He struggled early against Colorado State, missing open receivers regularly. His touchdown pass came on a busted coverage on a swing pass. For a quarterback that already seemed like he was on the fringes of the draft conversation, this just further indicates that he does not have an NFL future. Michigan’s offense looked better when he was not in the game. McNamara seemed to settle in a little bit as the game went on, but with J.J. McCarthy set to start in Week 2 against Hawaii, I wouldn’t be surprised if McNamara loses the job.

Trevor Reid, OT, Louisville
4th-year senior
Week 1 stat line: Uhhh…
The JuCo transfer is now in his second season as Louisville’s starting left tackle. His 2022 campaign got off to a rocky start. He was flagged for holding on a couple of occasions. He also whiffed on several pass block reps and struggled to set the edge in the run game. The 6’5″ senior has the build that folks were hoping he could take the next step and enter the draft conversation. It looks like he is headed in the opposite direction at the moment, which could prove costly for Cardinals quarterback Malik Cunningham, who has legitimate draft hopes as a dual threat player. Reid will need to step up moving forward, especially with a trip to UCF up next followed by a visit from Jared Verse and Florida State.

Ali Gaye, EDGE, LSU
5th-year senior
Week 1 stat line: 1 tackle
Gaye was one of the more under-the-radar draft prospects I really liked and was excited to watch coming into this season. He has good physical tools and a great first step. He really needed to up his production in 2022 as a fifth-year senior. His season got off to a disastrous start. LSU struggled to get off the field on third down all night. Gaye was not generating much pressure until he got a free run at Jordan Travis in the third quarter. He ended up headbutting Travis right in the helmet well after he threw it on a vicious hit, which earned him an early trip to the showers and will cost him the first half of the Tigers’ next game. It looked like a play of pure frustration that proved to be very costly.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

2022 NFL Franchise 100: No. 40-36

The NFL season is right around the corner and while all 32 franchises are trying to make their final roster decisions, I wanted to take a different approach to roster building. Inspired in part by the annual NFL Top 100 players list, voted on by the players in the league, I wanted to know who the top 100 players would be to start a team with in 2022.

There are a variety of factors that went into creating this list. Let me lay out the criteria.

First, age played a major role in determining which players made this list. Only six players over the age of 30 made the list. Positional value was the other big driving force behind these rankings. There is no doubt that Jonathan Taylor is one of the best young players in the game right now, but you wouldn’t pick him first overall to start an NFL franchise from scratch. The positional value of running backs is simply not high enough to warrant that. Neither is the longevity of the position on average. You most likely want to find a player who is going to last a long time to build your franchise around. There are a few notable exceptions to that rule. With that in mind, I prioritized quarterbacks, offensive tackles, cornerbacks, edge rushers and wide receivers. There are plenty of instances where a more talented player slid down the board a little further simply because they played a less valuable position.

There were a few other factors I considered, including years remaining on contract, contract structure and salary commitments. There is a reason why rookie contracts are so valuable, especially when you hit on a star. That player is now on a team friendly deal with several years of team control built in.

If you missed the previous entry, you can find it here.

With all of that in mind, let’s continue our countdown to No. 1. Check back Friday for players 35 to 30.

40. Trevon Diggs, CB, Dallas Cowboys
Age: 23
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $1.72 million
The NFL’s leader in interceptions for 2021 checks in at No. 40. That might seem a little low for a 23-year-old corner who just earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl status. Perhaps it is. Despite his 11 interceptions, he got picked on a lot. That’s because he is a bit inconsistent in coverage. Nobody allowed more yards in coverage than Diggs last season and the 10th most yards per completion. His passer rating allowed was still one of the best in the league because of the number of interceptions and pass break ups he had. In short, Diggs is high risk, high reward in coverage. His contract is also a bargain. I’m willing to bet on him still improving a bit in coverage at such a young age. I’m also not moving him higher because I know that him replicating 11 interceptions in a season is very unlikely.

39. Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Age: 26
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $6.88 million
I don’t know if there was a better offensive weapon in football than Samuel. He had 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns, including 365 yards on the ground. San Francisco lined him up all over the formation and he excelled in every spot. It was a coming out party for Samuel, who flashed his upside as a freshman, but only played in seven games in 2020. He got a big pay day this offseason, but the first two years of his contract are actually very affordable. He carries a $6.88 million cap hit in 2022 and an $8.68 million in 2023. It jumps to about $28.5 million in 2024, which is less than ideal, but the bill always comes due at some point. If Samuel can show he can consistently produce at this All-Pro level, he will certainly be higher next year.

38. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Age: 24
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $8.84 million
This was a tough call between Samuel and Metcalf. I ended up giving Metcalf the slight edge for a few reasons. For one, he has been more durable so far, never missing a game in his first three seasons. He also has fantastic production, with over 3,200 yards and 29 touchdowns. What’s more, Metcalf is only 24 years old. He is a physically dominant force that I believe could slot into basically any offense. Like Samuel, he signed a big extension this offseason. Again, the first two seasons are incredibly affordable for a player of his caliber before the cap hits jump up near $25 million. I have no doubt that his production will drop off this season with one of the worst quarterback situations in recent memory, but that does not mean he will be any less talented.

37. Jordan Mailata, OT, Philadelphia Eagles
Age: 25
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $4.37 million
This one might come as a bit of a surprise, but Mailata is one of the best young left tackles in the game. At just 25 years old, he is still just scratching the surface of his potential. He finished fourth in run-block win-rate. He was also PFF’s third-highest rated tackle, trailing only Trent Williams and Tyron Smith. At 6’8″, 365 pounds, he is a mountain of a man who moves incredibly well. His contract is very team-friendly as well. His cap hit over the next two years is under $8 million. Given what we’ve already seen from Mailata coupled with his upside, I think this is a great spot for him.

36. Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
Age: 29
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $8.17 million
One of the most prolific receivers over the past few seasons. Since he entered the league in 2014, only Mike Evans has more receiving touchdowns. He has benefited from playing with Aaron Rodgers, but there is no denying Adams’ talent. He is a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro. While he is certainly nearing the end of his prime, I still believe Adams has a few years left of elite production. His contract situation may look a little daunting on the surface with looming cap hits of over $40 million in the final two years of his deal when he will be 33 and 34-year-old respectively. However, the Raiders would be able to move on from Adams after the 2024 season with limited dead cap hit.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

2022 NFL Franchise 100: No. 45-41

The NFL season is right around the corner and while all 32 franchises are trying to make their final roster decisions, I wanted to take a different approach to roster building. Inspired in part by the annual NFL Top 100 players list, voted on by the players in the league, I wanted to know who the top 100 players would be to start a team with in 2022.

There are a variety of factors that went into creating this list. Let me lay out the criteria.

First, age played a major role in determining which players made this list. Only six players over the age of 30 made the list. Positional value was the other big driving force behind these rankings. There is no doubt that Jonathan Taylor is one of the best young players in the game right now, but you wouldn’t pick him first overall to start an NFL franchise from scratch. The positional value of running backs is simply not high enough to warrant that. Neither is the longevity of the position on average. You most likely want to find a player who is going to last a long time to build your franchise around. There are a few notable exceptions to that rule. With that in mind, I prioritized quarterbacks, offensive tackles, cornerbacks, edge rushers and wide receivers. There are plenty of instances where a more talented player slid down the board a little further simply because they played a less valuable position.

There were a few other factors I considered, including years remaining on contract, contract structure and salary commitments. There is a reason why rookie contracts are so valuable, especially when you hit on a star. That player is now on a team friendly deal with several years of team control built in.

If you missed the previous entry, you can find it here.

With all of that in mind, let’s continue our countdown to No. 1. Check back Thursday for players 40 to 36.

45. Quenton Nelson, G, Indianapolis Colts
Age: 26
Years remaining on contract: 1
2022 cap hit: $13.75 million
There are few players who have dominated the league as thoroughly and consistently as Nelson has since the moment he stepped on an NFL field. He is a four-time All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler in his first four seasons. He is coming off his worst year as a pro, which still resulted in a second-team All-Pro designation and a Pro Bowl selection. Positional value and contract structure are what holds Nelson back from being higher on this list. I have no doubt that the Colts will re-sign Nelson, but he is in the final year of his rookie deal with no long-term extension in place. He is going to cost a lot to keep, which is saying something because he already carries the largest cap hit for a guard in the entire league by nearly $1.5 million. He is that good, but it is easy to question paying an interior offensive linemen that much money.

44. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Age: 29
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $10.32 million
Evans is one of the most consistent receivers in NFL history. He has had at least 1,000 yards receiving every single season he has been in the league. He also has 75 career touchdown receptions, including 27 over the past two years. He is definitely nearing the end of his prime, but he still looks like he could have a few great years left in the tank. He has a very affordable cap hit for this season, but 2023 carries a cap hit north of $23 million. His contract expiring heading into his age 31 season could put teams in a tough spot. However, if Evans is still producing like he has up to this point, it would be easy to justify re-signing him.

43. Evan Neal, OT, New York Giants
Age: 21
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $4.46 million
I get that not everyone is going to agree with this one, but I am sticking true to my draft board for right now. I had Neal as my highest-rated player entering the 2022 NFL draft. Nothing I have seen or read so far has led me to change my mind on that front. The Giants are going to start him at right tackle for now, but I think he is a future left tackle in this league. He is a great run blocker and has the traits to develop into an asset in pass protection as well. Neal will turn 22 in September. If he hits like I think he will, he could be a franchise tackle in the league for the next decade.

42. Shaquille Leonard, LB, Indianapolis Colts
Age: 27
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $11.17 million
Where do I even begin with Leonard? He is a four-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler, not to mention the 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year. He is an elite tackler with a nose for making big plays. His 17 forced fumbles are tied for second most since he entered the league, trailing only T.J. Watt. Don’t discount his ability in pass coverage either. Leonard is a complete player with plenty of years left in his prime. My only knock against him would be his contract situation. He has a cap hit of at least $19.7 million for the final four years of his deal, which is very high for an off-ball linebacker, but when you have elite talent, you have to pay to keep said elite talent.

41. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Age: 29
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $17.80 million
The triple crown winner has arrived. Kupp became the first receiver since Steve Smith Sr. in 2005 to lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in a dominant season that nearly saw him eclipse 2,000 yards. He is a perfect fit in Sean McVay’s offense. As much as I love Kupp, I am a little hesitant to put him higher on this list. For as good as he was, he has topped 1,000 yards only one other time in his five-year career. He will also turn 30 next offseason and has a lot of money tied up in his remaining contract. The counter argument to all of this is that we have finally seen Kupp at his best when he has a quality quarterback. I’m hedging my bets a bit putting him here.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

2022 NFL Franchise 100: No. 50-46

The NFL season is right around the corner and while all 32 franchises are trying to make their final roster decisions, I wanted to take a different approach to roster building. Inspired in part by the annual NFL Top 100 players list, voted on by the players in the league, I wanted to know who the top 100 players would be to start a team with in 2022.

There are a variety of factors that went into creating this list. Let me lay out the criteria.

First, age played a major role in determining which players made this list. Only six players over the age of 30 made the list. Positional value was the other big driving force behind these rankings. There is no doubt that Jonathan Taylor is one of the best young players in the game right now, but you wouldn’t pick him first overall to start an NFL franchise from scratch. The positional value of running backs is simply not high enough to warrant that. Neither is the longevity of the position on average. You most likely want to find a player who is going to last a long time to build your franchise around. There are a few notable exceptions to that rule. With that in mind, I prioritized quarterbacks, offensive tackles, cornerbacks, edge rushers and wide receivers. There are plenty of instances where a more talented player slid down the board a little further simply because they played a less valuable position.

There were a few other factors I considered, including years remaining on contract, contract structure and salary commitments. There is a reason why rookie contracts are so valuable, especially when you hit on a star. That player is now on a team friendly deal with several years of team control built in.

If you missed the previous entry, you can find it here.

With all of that in mind, let’s continue our countdown to No. 1. Check back Wednesday for players 45 to 41.

50. Tre’Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills
Age: 27
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $16.4 million
I will admit, I am probably a bit too high on White, who is coming off a torn ACL. That being said, I really love his game. He has been an impact player since he came into the league, finishing as runner up for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017. He was an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in 2019 and 2020. I expect he likely would have been in 2021 as well if not for the knee injury. His advanced metrics in coverage are great every year. What sells me even more on White is his contract situation. His cap hit hovers right around $16 million for the next four seasons, which is very affordable for an elite cover corner. It ranks third for the position in 2022, but drops to 14th in 2023 and even lower beyond that.

49. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
Age: 23
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $6.16 million
Given what receivers are being paid in the NFL these days, getting Waddle at just north of $6 million is a bargain. Waddle became just the second rookie receiver in NFL history to haul in 100 catches, surpassing Anquan Bolden’s record of 101 set in 2003. He is a huge threat in space and excels at generating separation in small spaces. His acceleration is incredible. It is only one year of production, but in an offense that was far from prolific passing the football, Miami ranked 17th in yards per game last season, I think this was about as strong of a start as you could have hoped for.

48. Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Detroit Lions
Age: 22
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $6.49 million
Hutchinson has come a long way from the foot injury that cost him the remainder of the 2020 college season. He became the first defensive player to finish as the runner up for the Heisman since Manti Te’o in 2012. That was thanks in large part to a monster senior season featuring 14 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. I love his motor and his polish as a pass rusher off the edge. I think he is going to be a star in this league for a long time to come. I am willing to invest in that upside.

47. Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins
Age: 28
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $6.49 million
Catch him if you can. Hill will get the chance to remind everyone that he was a great receiver before Patrick Mahomes came along now that he is with the Dolphins. He has been a Pro Bowler every season of his career and a three-time All-Pro. He has led the league in yards from scrimmage per touch in two different seasons so far as well. You might be wondering why he isn’t higher, given all of the accolades. He is clearly in the prime of his career, but I worry a little bit about his longevity as a player whose game is so heavily predicated on speed and his contract situation. Hill’s cap hit for 2022 is very easy to swallow, but balloons to over $31 million in 2023. Still, he is a game-changer with the ability to take the top off a defense at any moment. That is worth investing in.

46. Ahmad Gardner, CB, New York Jets
Age: 22
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $6.08 million
First and foremost, happy 22nd birthday to Sauce! The Jets top pick has looked the part so far in the preseason. After not allowing a touchdown during his collegiate career, he was not even targeted during his first preseason. I am not sure how important that stat really is, but Gardner brings length, talent and swagger to a position that demands all of them to be considered elite. Gardner was my No. 2 player in this past draft class and I think he is going to be one of the best corners in the league very quickly. His rookie deal will keep him at an affordable cap hit for the foreseeable future as well.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.